Monthly Archives: January 2015

Impressive

I was just reading these two articles(1, 2) by John R. Schindler and I was thoroughly impressed. This guy seriously gets it. I highly recommend reading both of them, but the second one is particularly informative for people who don’t understand the Kremlin’s ideology.

Obviously there are things I would dispute in the article but nothing major- it’s simply difference of opinion or interpretation issues. I would highlight one thing that I recommend everyone keep in mind when examining the question of the Kremlin’s ideology. Study it as you please, but always keep in mind that there is always a limit to what extent Putin and his close circle actually believe in any of these theories. I figure Putin must have a measure of sincere belief, partially to rationalize his actions and partially because he is, possibly voluntarily, disconnected from reality. Still, you cannot fully understand Putin by ideology alone.

Putin and his elite come from the same cloth as the Russian oligarchs that came before. They have no moral principles whatsoever. All they cherish is power and luxury beyond belief, the latter being tangible proof of the former. Money is no object. If you have a genuine virgin Swiss milkmaid shit in a handcrafted burlap sack and put it on sale in an elite European mall, these pigs would pay thousands of euros to have it. When they look at European luxury cars and high-tech gadgets they don’t ask themselves how they could transform Russia into a country that produces its own versions of these products for export; they just want the products. Millions of pensioners, orphans, and terminally ill children be damned!

So basically the caveat here is that anyone who wants to understand Putin and his system must remember that ideology is a means to an end. Putin is scared and he needs to rally the people behind him. He has nothing real to offer so he courts a certain segment of the population that responds to his neo-imperialist ideology and sets them loose on dissenters. If Putin could somehow maintain power by selling a piece of Russia and its citizens to a foreign country, he certainly would. It just so happens that he can’t.

I have to say in some ways I think Schindler overstates Russia’s threat to the world, a la Edward Lucas, but after a more thorough reading and some reflection I don’t think that’s the case. I have always acknowledged that Russia poses a danger(as many other countries *COUGH*USA!*COUGH* do), it’s just that I’ve recommended not engaging in hysterics which only send the Kremlin and its key demographic into fits of masturbatory ecstasy. Moreover, I believe that like a drunk man swinging his arms around wildly, Russia can do a lot of damage to its neighbors before collapsing, which will open a whole other can of worms. In this sense, I don’t think there really is a difference between my view and that of Schindler, who does rationally argue that whatever his ideological beliefs, Putin will ultimately fail. It’s just a question of who suffers in the mean time. If there is a difference, it is only that Schindler appeals to Western leaders to wake up to this threat and do something about it, whereas I don’t put my faith in governments. I believe Western leaders would happily draw up a map with Putin if he would just leave Ukraine, Georgia, Moldova, and Belarus in their sphere. They were happy to tolerate him before.

Very educational reading.

Leave the Bear Alone!

In his rambling, totally-disconnected-from-reality press conference last year, Vladimir Putin expressed an idea that I think has come to guide his thinking as of late. This is the idea that “the West” and his ever-growing list of enemies won’t leave Russia alone. Everyone is just so jealous of Russia that they literally cannot stop plotting on how they will dismantle the country and occupy the remnants.

Sometimes it almost seems to make sense. Are the US and EU truly so concerned about Putin’s record on human rights and democracy? It’s hard to believe given the near-constant ass-licking American and European leaders have been engaging in since the recent death of Saudi Arabia’s king. The Department of Defense seems to have outdone its own commander-in-chief by proposing, I shit you not, an essay contest in memory of the late king under whom people were put to death for sorcery and a blogger was sentenced to 1,000 lashes. There definitely seems to be a double standard with Russia. But what’s really behind it?

I can think of two possible factors, the first being that perhaps Western leaders actually believe Russia has the capacity to become at least a liberal democratic nation with a higher standard of human rights, something they don’t expect of Saudi Arabia or its monarchy. I remember a similar example from an anecdote about the Shah of Iran. A British adviser told of how the Shah complained to him about the Western media constantly vilifying him while supposedly not saying anything about Iraq’s Saddam Hussein. The adviser told the Shah that the West didn’t see Iraq as being on the same level as Iran, ergo they expected more from Iran and not Iraq in terms of human rights.

However inaccurate or odd that may sound, there is some truth to it. Most people will not bat an eye if someone is jailed for what they write in a country like Uzbekistan or Egypt, whereas they will react with outrage at the slightest censorship or threat of censorship in their own country. Russia itself made overtures toward being accepted as a modern, advanced nation. When you do this, people are going to start looking at your human rights record more closely.

The other factor is the possibility of a real double standard in regards to Russia because of imperialist aims on the part of the US or EU. This is a valid point, but if anything the middle of the last decade showed how the West was quite happy to turn a blind eye toward Putin, or leave the bear alone to use his analogy, so long as he kept things stable and the flow of resources, money, and women continued unabated. Moreover, even if you claim that the Western focus on Russia is imperialist in nature, that still leaves the question of why Russia and not some other country which is rich in natural resources. In other words, those with actual imperialist ambitions may be drawn to corrupt, internally-rotting dictatorships like Russia the way sharks are drawn to the smell of blood in the water.

If Putin had been using the resources of his country wisely and strengthening rule of law, human rights, and personal freedom in Russia, American or European attempts to destabilize his country wouldn’t even get off the ground. For one thing, if he had established a democratic system whereby he actually left after his first two terms, it would be difficult to pile up all Russia’s problems at his feet. We all remember how the left in the US tallied up all George W. Bush’s faults during his tenure, and the Republicans have been doing the same for Obama. Yet even if the next president happens to be a Democrat, Republican opponents will have to leave their anti-Obama list behind and start compiling new outrages of the week for at least the next four years. In Russia where you have the one ruling party, phony official opposition parties, and the so-called “tandem” tag team of president Putin and prime minister Medvedev, everything piles up on them, even imagined offenses.

If Putin had put Russia’s riches into its infrastructure, healthcare, and social services, you wouldn’t have Russians constantly dreaming about living in Europe or America to the point where some are willing to sell their own body for the opportunity to do so. Most people would realize that this is a long process, but as long as there is constant, measurable progress every year people would be patient. What angers most people in regards to the government’s incompetence and corruption is their constant promises which begin with “in six months,” then “in a year,” then “in five years,” “by 2020,” and so on.

Using the country’s resources wisely instead of allowing friends and corrupt officials to siphon off their cuts would reduce Russia’s staggering wealth inequality, ending the tradition of a massive country ruled by a few ridiculously wealthy people who live cut off from the rest of society. Those who achieve their wealth by climbing the ladder through their own work and talent, and yes they do exist, would have a greater sense of social responsibility toward their fellow citizens.

That brings us to the next point, about NGOs, the alleged Trojan horse of the US State Department. With a working liberal democratic society, strong protection for constitutional freedoms, people would form their own organizations, funds, and movements to fight whatever social ills the government fails to rectify or at least fails to do so in a timely manner. By making funds available to these social organizations, they could go about their work without ever feeling the need to take money from abroad. They would also look more favorably on their own government, since it would be holding the purse strings. And when that isn’t enough, allowing people to demonstrate and openly air their grievances would allow them to let off steam.

In the past some have accused me of supporting the US’ foreign policy line. Nothing could be further from the truth. It’s not a matter of supporting US/EU foreign policy, but rather I am no longer willing to throw my support behind amoral, corrupt dictatorships which, through the incompetence and avarice of their leaders, allow their nations to rot and thus become vulnerable to consensus pressure. These nations offer no alternative to the present system; all resources are devoted to preserving the tiny group of elites who control them. Unwilling to listen to their own people, they drive them to listen to anyone who seems to care. The strategy of America’s think tanks is to slip neo-liberal economics and privatization-worship in under the cover of human rights, freedom of speech and other positive concepts. They want people to believe that all these things go hand in hand with market-first economic policies. Tyrannical governments who deny those positive concepts to their own people cause them to focus on the most serious violations of their rights. If you have a functioning electoral system with real political competition, people will be more inclined to think about economic matters and other nuances.

Of course when you get right down to it, Putin’s “leave me alone” rhetoric is bullshit. He acts as if Russia is just minding its own business, being involved in several frozen conflicts and annexing part of another nation, and mean old Uncle Sam just won’t turn a blind eye. In reality, what Putin means when he talks about leaving the bear alone is that he and his friends want the rest of the world to shut up about them robbing their country blind and pissing away the future of its people. Can’t they just remember that one thing he did roughly fifteen years ago and shut up? He did improve their living standards once, did he not? And even though virtually all those improvements are now gone and things are steadily turning worse, can’t everyone just pretend it’s 2006 again, please? Can we ignore when my ultra-rich supporters organize special movements to suppress dissent without any legal repercussion? Don’t they do that in the US too? No? Well I’m sure they must do it in some countries like Egypt or Saudi Arabia!

Putin’s “poor little me” act is about as hollow and nonsensical as his “I’m opposing the West in the name of Christian values” shtick. While it’s not always fair, Putin’s Russia attracts negative attention for a reason. Even if the US government is hypocritical for its selective scrutiny, this does not preclude the judgement of those inside and outside of Russia who have nothing to do with the American or any other government. Don’t like double standards? Fine.Don’t deal in false dichotomies while you’re at it.

Christmas is Cancelled

Well if it’s not one thing, it’s another. The Gofundme thing didn’t work out thanks to a residency requirement that curiously enough didn’t make itself known until some people actually donated money. I struck the campaign and ordered those donations to be returned. Even without the money I appreciate generosity and support of those who donated or attempted to donate. It’s good just to know you’re out there.

Eventually I will find a crowd funding platform that actually works and which doesn’t have some ridiculous red-tape to cut through, but to be honest I’m not in the mood for more registrations, confirmations, confirmations of confirmations, and everything else crowdfunding seems to entail. Fund raising is supposed to contribute to Russia Without BS, not the other way around.

In case anyone was wondering, it was only in the past couple weeks that I even considered crowdfunding. I have been trying to monetize the blog for quite some time, but that’s not going to happen until  this site gets a few thousand views every day. I’m going to give writing for Cracked.com another go, and pretty soon all have some time to record something for Youtube. I’m pointing all this out because I want to make it clear that donations remain a last resort for me.

I still have an open offer to anyone in film, gaming, or other media who requires consultation or information on Russia- culture, history, politics, etc. send me an e-mail at nobsrussia@gmail.com I can be a guest commentator on your program or if you have a larger project we can discuss terms.

Till I’m in the mood to deal with more nonsense from the internet I’m going back to our originally scheduled programming.

Wow. Much depressed.

Wow. Much depressed.

I call.

If you’ve been following Russia’s responses to accusations of their involvement in the Ukrainian conflict, responsibility for the downing of MH17, and even the recent shelling of Mariupol, you already know their standard response is to claim that they haven’t seen any evidence from their accusers. They call for “objective investigations” by the OSCE, and then ignore the results when they point to Russia or its proxies. This is all rather curious seeing as how much of the evidence in all these cases has been widely available.

Obviously Russian officials like foreign minister Sergei Lavrov look ridiculous when they’re constantly claiming that they haven’t seen any evidence that has been widely available for months in some cases. The worst thing, however, is that this it totally unnecessary.They have a way out. While proving a negative usually impossible, Russia can provide concrete evidence to exonerate herself in many of these claims. Why continue being a laughing stock when Russia could easily shut up its accusers by answering some of the following points?

1. Russia claims that it is not supporting the rebels militarily and logistically. The rebels supposedly got their arms and ammunition from Ukrainian army and police stocks. This is quite fortunate because Russia must have had intelligence about Ukrainian army deployments for years, meaning it should be possible to point out exactly which bases and depots the rebels raided and what kind of equipment they took. Obviously we cannot account for every single round possessed by the Ukrainian military and police, but with sufficient data on the bases and what Ukrainian units were deployed there, we could at least make some estimates. We could certainly correlate reports of artillery barrages from the rebels and make estimates about how many shells they have expended.

2. Supposedly a number of Russian servicemen have died in mysterious training accidents, which curiously occurred around the same time that major fighting was taking place in Ukraine. Russia could launch investigations into these training accidents, revealing their circumstances to the world. Surely the mothers of those dead soldiers would like to see some negligent officer held responsible for the rapid explosion of lethal training accidents within a short amount of time.

3. Russia could turn over any data they might have which supposedly supports any of their five or six alternate hypotheses about Malaysian Airlines flight MH17 to international investigators.

4. In the name of transparency, Russia could ask the DNR and LNR leaders to reveal the source of all their funding and explain how they managed to get so many flags, t-shirts, professionally designed banners, websites, etc. set up within such a short time. Perhaps they could also explain how they’ve managed to launch recent offensives without receiving new arms, ammunition, rations, etc. from Russia. If they are receiving these things via another country, they can make that known, thus exonerating Russia.

Perhaps none of these wold constitute a smoking gun, but they would do much to improve Russia’s reputation and make the country’s leaders look far more dignified on the world stage. How about it, Mr. Lavrov?

Proton M launch

Well thanks to an astute and generous reader I learned that my recent crowd-funding project launch went a lot like the Proton-M launch, seen below:

Let’s just leave that by the wayside for a while and I’ll get it up and running on a non-Russian crowd-funding platform. Should have known. Should have known.

The Sky is Definitely Going to Fall by 2016!

We’ve had a lot of fun at the expense of Russian pseudo-intellectuals predicting the immanent collapse of the United States, that’s for sure. Though to be fair, with Russian intellectuals born in the middle of the Cold War, often with no experience in the United States or even a working knowledge of English, it’s possible to cut them a little slack when their predictions don’t come true. The most likely explanation for their predictions is that with the help of translation they are reading and listening to America’s home-grown chicken littles and appropriating their message out of wishful thinking.

Today, for your viewing pleasure, I will provide you with a sampling of “America’s gonna collapse” videos from actual Americans and others who ought to know better. Enjoy.

America will collapse by 2016 

Mark your calenders, folks. This prediction says “by 2016”, indicating that we will see clear signs of collapse within this year.

BRICS will crush the dollar!  

Oh…Waaaaait…Noooo.  This video was published in June of 2014. Of course roughly six months after the video was published, the ruble got nuked, not the dollar. Russia is now facing double digit inflation; today it was reported that pharmacies have raised prices 20%. Mass layoffs are already occurring, including in state-owned enterprises like ITAR-TASS. The minister of labor also reported that as many as 20% of Russian citizens may be left without pensions. But you’ll see! You’ll all see! Either acknowledge the dollar is on the point of collapse or admit you’re an idiot who thinks the dollar will last forever, even after the death of the sun! Fools!

Mayan Calender + Youtube = Moron

Do you even need my commentary on this one?

America = Soviet Union in spite of massive political and economic differences

This was uploaded in March of 2009. To be fair, no date is given, but as usual there is the ubiquitous sense of urgency.

America actually has collapsed.

This video is entitled “Economic Collapse America has Collapsed.”  It was published on 3 March 2010. Sadly, English speakers generally don’t learn grammar in school. Were that the case, they would know that the present perfect generally implies that something has happened, i.e. it is finished, prior to the present time. Example: “He’s arrived at the airport.” Past action- He arrived. Present result- He’s at the airport now. So using the present perfect and saying “America has collapsed” means this actually happened, in 2010, apparently. Nnnnnnope!

2015’s the year!

Here’s another one predicting the collapse of the dollar in 2015. I’m sure this guy never predicted or believed any prediction that the dollar would collapse in 2014, 2013, 2012, or earlier. I’m sure this guy crunched all the numbers, took into account every factor, and through objective analysis calculated the dollar would go ruble in 2015. Remember this video, folks. If 2015 passes and the dollar is still doing fine, relatively speaking, feel free to leave a comment on this video.

LEAVE NOW! GET OUT! 

The next video in our series is called, I shit you not, “Leave America Now 300 Million Will Die in Civilization Collapse in the next 5 Years Warns Researcher.”

The “researcher’s” name is not given in the intro as you might expect, and a label in the top right tells us this publicly available Youtube video is “Top Secret.” Okay.

It was published on 27 February 2013, and claims that America will collapse in the next five years. To be sure, there are three years to go, but usually when a disaster is coming and the best advice is “leave the country now,” you should start seeing clear signs pretty early.

I could make this a ridiculously long article with dozens of examples just from Youtube alone, but you can have a lot of fun on your own just by Googling or doing a Youtube search for “America is going to collapse in.”  Let the auto-complete do the rest. For some odd reason, these people don’t remove the evidence of their failed predictions.

I don’t know, I guess it could happen. I mean, imagine if America’s economy shrank down until it was about the size of California’s current economy, i.e. about $2 trillion as opposed to its current $15 trillion. Then imagine the dollar lost 50% of its value in one year, with about 20% of that occurring in one day. Imagine if the US  were financing a secret war and getting hit with sanctions over it. That could cause a collapse. Not in a country like Russia, of course. Russia can survive anything! But if that happened in America in spite of its much stronger economic and legal foundations, it would surely lead to chaos in the streets. Also the collapse of America would only make Russia stronger. Russia won’t be negatively affected by the collapse of the United States because reasons.

All joking aside, it’s interesting to ponder what makes these people tick. I’m not going to lie- I used to follow this line of thinking too, when I was much younger. I’d look at the news and the deteriorating situation in Iraq and imagine what would happen when the budget and military get strained to the breaking point. The problem is that much like all these other people, I had very little understanding of economics and also the science of government and laws which govern developed countries.

I think people who follow disenfranchised political ideologies, regardless of whether that disenfranchisement is just or not, have a strong desire to believe that something will happen which will somehow make their movement instantly relevant. They feel totally shut out of mainstream politics and have decided there is nothing they can do to change that. Obviously how realistic that is really depends on what ideology we’re talking about, but people often tend to forget that politics isn’t always a matter of elections.

They also forget that actual total economic collapses or emergency scenarios have broken out in developed or semi-developed countries, and the result wasn’t Mad Max. Argentina experienced such a scenario. Even with the chaos in the eastern part of Ukraine, the rest of the country has yet to devolve into anarchy. Correspondents I’ve spoken with who worked in Donetsk and Lugansk reported that assuming no fighting was going on at the time, things could be more or less ordinary. If that’s what happens in Ukraine at war, why should America suddenly turn into 90’s Somalia over a recession? America’s economy actually made gains recently, and is expected to be the only major country with a positive outlook for 2015. If the shit didn’t hit the fan in 2008, there’s no reason why it should in 2015 short of a meteor or a nuclear war.

Ukraine also gives us another example of why radical fringe political groups won’t necessarily gain power via a total breakdown of order. Praviy Sektor and the thugs from Svoboda played a major role in the streetfighting during Maidan, but as soon as Yanukovych was gone the political elite closed ranks and the electoral process shut them out.  For all its problems, Ukraine’s capitalist elite is realistic enough to prevent those who don’t live in the real world from wielding any real power. Were it not for the war in the east and Russia’s involvement, they would most likely crack down harder on radicals, though they will still maintain the pseudo-historical narratives which feed Ukraine’s nationalist right.

I hate to break a lot of hearts out there, but if you want to see radical change in your developed country you’re going to have to get off your ass and do something about it. You will have to do a lot of real research, not watching Youtube videos, and you might want to get in shape as well. Revolutionaries who double over panting after running ten yards to the bus stop aren’t going to become the Che Guevara of the 21st century, mark my words. Whatever you do, realize that some kind of apocalypse is not going to sweep in and do all the work for you. People have been predicting catastrophe and anarchy for decades. Those who think they have “woken up” are still dreaming.